GE Fanuc Automation agrees to Solaia patent license

GE Fanuc Automation Americas Inc. reported March 9 that it has signed an agreement with Chicago-based Solaia Technology LLC, which reportedly gives broad rights to GE Fanuc Automation, GE, Japan-based Fanuc Ltd., and their customers under Solaia's 5,038,318 U.S. patent, "Device for Communicating Real Time Data Between a Programmable Logic Controller and a Program Ope...

04/01/2005


GE Fanuc Automation Americas Inc. reported March 9 that it has signed an agreement with Chicago-based Solaia Technology LLC, which reportedly gives broad rights to GE Fanuc Automation, GE, Japan-based Fanuc Ltd., and their customers under Solaia's 5,038,318 U.S. patent, "Device for Communicating Real Time Data Between a Programmable Logic Controller and a Program Operating in a Central Controller." GE Fanuc noted, "Financial terms of the agreement are confidential."

Rockwell Automation has ongoing litigation related to the same patent, according to that company's 2004 annual report. Schneider Electric sold the patent to Solaia in 2002.

GE Fanuc adds that Solaia has released any potential claims on the '318 patent against the three companies' customers for buying or using products, software, services, equipment, or devices made or supplied by them. Also, any system that was substantially integrated by a GE entity is released, regardless of which company manufactured the individual system components.

Under the agreement, any discrete or process control system that uses a GE Fanuc programmable logic controller (PLC) or GE Fanuc human machine interface (HMI) software, including Proficy HMI/SCADA—Cimplicity or iFix, comprises a fully licensed system. Purchase or use of all other products, software, services, equipment or devices, including PLCs, made or supplied by GE Fanuc Automation, GE, or Fanuc are also released from any potential claims on the '318 patent. GE Fanuc told Control Engineering that "The invention furnishes a program or instruction means that operates through a general purpose spreadsheet program to affect information transfers to and from the addressable registers of a PLC and assigned cells of a displayed spreadsheet directly from the spreadsheet program and without transfers through the operating system program or specifically written device driver program. In other words, the patent relates to exchanging data directly from a PLC and the cells of a general purpose spreadsheet operating on a PC."

Jeff Garwood, GE Fanuc Automation's president and CEO, explained, "GE Fanuc reached this important agreement with Solaia in order to assure our customers that they have no potential risk for litigation under the '318 patent due to using GE Fanuc, GE, or Fanuc products or services. At this critical time in our global economy, manufacturers need to concentrate on improving productivity, reducing costs, and achieving peak performance, and we're committed to helping our customers do just that with best-in-class automation solutions and the worldwide support of GE."

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